Monday, April 7, 2008

sleep cycles

Voting continues for Friday's belated story... go here to cast your vote.

It's the weirdest thing... I realize that I haven't talked much about the nuts and bolts of Life with Alice. I don't know why, exactly, other than I worried it would be boring or sound indulgent or open up all kinds of ways for y'all to tell me that I'm Doing It Wrong (not that you really would do this - you're such a kind and polite lot).

Anyway, I'm ignoring any previous misgivings to talk to you about sleep, the lack thereof, and feeding a newborn. I'm going to apologize now if this scares any of my first-time pregnant readers. Because DUDE.

When we first brought Alice home, she had already lost some weight. She was just an itsy thing to begin with, this loss of weight wasn't optimal. By the time of her first check-up, she had lost almost 10% of her body weight and they put us on a crazy 2-hour feeding schedule. This was in addition to extra feeding measures like supplemental formula fed to her through a tube and syringe that we were instructed to slip into her mouth while she was breastfeeding - using the glorious doodad known as the NIPPLE SHIELD. (Girl was chewing the life out of my nipples.) None of this was easy. There were moments at 2 and 3am when it was Chip and I freakishly hunched over my own nipple, me holding a crying red-faced newborn while we attempted to fashion the Engineering Masterpiece comprised of nipple, nipple shield, tube (of the aforementioned Tube and Syringe fabulousness), and baby's lips - somehow ensuring that the tube (of the Tube and Syringe combo you've heard so much about) was correctly winding up through the nipple shield and into Bean's mouth and not back down UNDER the nipple shield where it would then fountain a delicious combination of formula and breastmilk into my unsuspecting lap. I am surprised that Chip and I didn't kill each other. And this WAS NOT ALL. Add to this a requirement for me to pump for breast milk after each feeding - you know, to establish my supply... Let's be logical now. When a baby is on a 2-hour feeding schedule, it means that you're counting the two hours from the beginning of one feeding session to the beginning of the next. If the feeding session lasts, say, nearly an HOUR and you put the baby down to sleep after changing her diaper, you're giving her maybe 45-minutes to sleep. After which, Mama is then pumping for breast milk for 15 minutes (add on a few extra minutes for set-up and for clean-up). This leaves Mama MAYBE 20-30 minutes of sleeping time. And that's if Mama literally leaps into bed after pumping. Which isn't realistic. Mama needs to do little things like pee and eat and maybe even SHOWER. This goes on ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT. By the time I'd done this craziness for 3 days, I was completely unhinged. I found myself crying to the lactation specialist that I just COULDN'T KEEP THIS UP MUCH LONGER PLEASE SAVE ME. They extended Bean's feeding schedule to 3 hours.

In time, things got better. Bean started gaining weight. We discontinued the tube/syringe business (and promptly burned the entire contraption and then ran over the ashes with our car - repeatedly). Eliminating the tube/syringe madness QUITE LITERALLY SAVED OUR MARRIAGE. We finally allowed poor Alice to feed on-demand and sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time (choir of ANGELS).

Our whole system has leveled out some around here, and I'm feeling a bit more human. I can speak nearly complete sentences! Our nights are much more manageable. Alice seems to now understand that night means night and it's sleepy time. She usually goes down around 11:30pm and then sleeps through until 4 or even 5am. At this point, Chip changes her diaper and brings her to me. He goes back to sleep and I feed Alice. I can usually get her back to sleep around 6 or 6:30am and we both sleep for another 2 hours. It isn't too bad. A person actually can get used to sleeping in 2-hour increments.

My biggest challenge is during the day. This is where I'm begging for ideas, suggestions, and the gladly welcomed Oh I went through that too. When Bean wakes up at 8:30am, I feed her again and she'll usually go back down until 11/11:30am. In this 2-3 hour window I attempt to eat breakfast, get ready for the day (ha HA), do laundry, clean up any dishes, pay bills - generally try to take care of my day's business because once she wakes up at 11am, all bets are off and Alice becomes THE BABY THAT WILL NOT STOP EATING. When she wakes up, I change her diaper. She is smiling and happy and wonderful. We play. We have tummy time. We do whatever household stuff mommy can do with one hand. I sit down to feed her. And then I don't get up again for 6 HOURS. Do you think I'm kidding? K came over the other day and couldn't believe that in the time she fed, cuddled, changed two diapers, got her little cutie down for a nap, ate lunch that Chip made for us (what a great guy), and had a thoroughly enjoyable visit, I was still feeding Bean.

I have done the whole thing of keeping her awake, trying to keep her alert to drink her fill. She just keeps eating. When she does sort of pass out, the second I put her in her bed - she's awake, alert, and if I try to leave her in her bed for a bit, she cries. And it's not a bored cry, a tired cry - it's a HUNGRY cry.

Has anyone else had this happen? What a great Dear Abby this would be: Dear Abby, I have a 5-week-old infant stuck to my boobs for 6 hours every day. What's a girl to? Alice is an angel of a baby. She is the easiest baby first-time parents could ask for. She is seriously perfect. So I feel bad even mentioning this marathon feeding business. But at the same time, I can't help but feel like I'm missing something. Either everyone goes through this and they just keep is a lovely GROUP SECRET, or I'm just wonderfully lucky that my baby is addicted to my boobs. I don't think this is a growth phase because it's been going on for 3 weeks.

Her doctor has checked her out, and she's perfectly healthy. She is gaining weight in all the right ways, and everything looks good. She just has a bottomless stomach and a very efficient waste management system.

If anyone needs me between 11 and 6, you know where I'll be.


Heidi said...

Oh, Whimsy--I'm so glad dear Alice gained enough weight to burn that horrid sounding contraption! And that you are both able to sleep more now. (And you didn't even mention recovering from a C-section along with all that--so that would make it even harder).

I wish I had advice about the 6 hour feeding... But the best I can think of is it's totally normal to feel like you're not getting anything done. Sometimes I used baby carriers and sometimes I just sat and held him. :)

Heidi said...

I know I haven't commented on your blog before, but here it goes!

This post is HILARIOUS!!! Well, maybe not to you, but I can relate to many of the things you mentioned like the nipple shield aka madonna boob, pumping to increase milk supply and supplementing. I'm glad you don't have to deal with the tube thing again! Poor you! All of those things you were doing on the 2 hour feed schedule would be so stressful! That's why I switched to bottle feeding with Kate after only 1 month of breastfeeding. It was too much stress and too time consuming. (I still think breastfeeding is good, don't get me wrong.)

Okay, then this whole 6 hour feeding thing. That is a long time so I'm sorry. I don't really know what to say. Maybe she's a slow eater?! Preston is horribly slow. I felt like I was feeding him ALL DAY LONG! He would take up to 45 minutes to drink 4 ounces! It was painful, but he's gotten better (better for him, but still slow).

Hang in there and I'm glad you are getting more sleep at night. :)

tearese said...

I'm glad they had you do the syringe-tube thing along with nursing, instead of having you just give her formula in a bottle. I get so annoyed when I hear doctors do that, because it will make your milk supply dry up! So at least you have a smart consultant.
Elora ate every hour and 45 minutes in the day for like three months or more, and maybe every three hours at night.
But when it seemed like she just wanted to keep eating and using me for a pacifier, I MADE Joseph walk her around till she went to sleep. She was litterally hurting me, and from everything I'd read, I didn't think she needed to eat that much.
Well...with Joshua Joseph won't really do that, hand he still eats WAY too often at night.
I know in your situation, I'd be afraid of denying her food because of how things were just after she was born...but if the doctor says its okay,I'd try the husband putting her to sleep once ina while. Or not.

nomadicspud said...

I agree a lot with Tearese. Is she really hungry all the time or is she just using you as a pacifier? When my Faith (#2) was born, even in the hospital she wanted to nurse round the clock. Each of my children have gotten their fill of milk in 10 minutes so after a few days of nursing constantly it seemed I knew something wasn't right. She wouldn't take a pacifier. I think she didn't like the plastic of the pacifier and only wanted the real thing. So again, is she really hungry or is she pacifying?

Stacey said...

I'm just impressed you can find time to blog!

You probably don't want to do the formula thing, but that's what saved my sanity. Austin would eat 20 ounces between 7 and 10 p.m. He got breastmilk all throughout the day, but at night he got formula in a bottle. It helped him sleep through the night and I just wasn't going to produce that much in such a short amount of time. Plus he could drink out of a bottle much faster.

That's my two cents. I'm sure everyone has different advice for you! I can't wait to meet her!

ailene said...

If it's any consolation, my daughter is doing the same thing too. It's called cluster feeding, and it's totally normal.

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt... even if she does it all day long. Make sure that she opens her mouth WIDE when you put her to the breast... and sometimes even changing her position by an inch or two makes all the difference in the world. Speak to your lactation consultant if breastfeeding is painful.

For the feedings... you can see if what the others have said is true (that she is sometimes using you as a pacifier). Listen closely to hear if you can hear her swallowing... or if she's just tasting you. For the times that she's just using you for a pacifier... you can try giving her a pacifier. I had to stroke my daughters cheek with my hand and talk to her in order to get her to take a pacifier... but she eventually took it.

For the times that she is wanting to constantly eat (which may still be fairly frequently), I suggest having water, snacks, and some favorite books nearby... if my daughter is taking a long time to eat... I will usually read while I feed her!

Hopefully you find some helpful advice among all these comments! I'm not necessarily an expert on breastfeeding, but I am going through what you're going through now... so if you want someone to talk to about this... I am always open to listening (and talking)!

Hang in there!

stacie d said...

I can't wait to meet this little lady, we have a lot to discuss. You see, I'm 32 years old and I also have a bottomless stomach and always want to eat. Maybe she too has crazy metabolism!

emily said...

i agree with what has been commented about cluster feeding and pacifying ... there is a fine line between the 2 and it's good to figure that one out. it's hard and i hope you are able to decipher that one. it's been my experience that tiny babies don't sometimes know what they want ... and that a pacifier can be a lifesaver, even if it's just a daddy's finger! the sucking is a soothing thing ... not necessarily a hungry thing (all the time).
good luck with all this ... and i'd love to come over and visit again! love ya!

wandering nana said...

Why didn't you say something when I was bugging you? I had a baby that was early and weighed about the same as Alice. I had to nurse her every 2 hours. The binky finally saved me. I finally started to use a bottle too and that helped. It also helped to have someone hold her other than me as they can smell the milk (I'm not kidding) and she would settle down. You will know what to do, you've already figured out a lot of things. You're such a cute mom. You'll finally figure out what works for you and her and what doesn't. I will check in when I get back in town.

Grossarths said...

Wow, I think you've already recieved plenty of advice from many experienced moms. Jackson started out with a nipple shield, which as you obviously know is annoying. Then he would be hungary every 30-45 minutes so he may not have been attached to me for 6 hours, but by the time I put my bra and shirt back in place and changed his diaper it was time to eat again. I think he was just going through a growth spurt because he has gotten so much better now.
My advice: try pumping and bottle feeding Alice so others (like your husband) can have an opportunity to feed her and give you a break. Like Ailene suggested, find a great book to read and leave it by your chair where you feed her. After Jackson was born we were visiting relatives over Thanksgiving and Christmas. I always hated leaving the room to go feed him, but having a book I was totally into helped a lot. And finally, just accept that you cannot get as much done as you could before a baby. I was trying to do everything in one day and realized that it just doesn't work. Break up the laundry into a few days. If you are leaving the house only got to one or two places at a time.
Good luck and know that it all continues to get better!

ailene said...

Jeanne is right! That's one other thing that I forgot to mention... don't expect to be able to do everything that you were able to do before the baby was born. You'll have to change up what your priorities are... cut out some of the less important stuff... and perhaps delegate some of it to Chip.